The chair of the government’s DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) committee has written to the tourism minister to demand a recovery plan for the UK’s domestic and inbound tourism sector.
Speaking ahead of English Tourism Week, Julian Knight MP called on Nigel Huddleston to consider an additional bank holiday in October and to encourage domestic half-term holidays.
He said businesses hit by social distancing rules and travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic needed government support to bounce back, noting that the sector could face losses of £22 billion – which VisitBritain forecast in a meeting of the DCMS Committee on Tuesday.
Knight said: “Tourism in the UK has been hit hard by Covid-19, with billions of pounds lost in revenues. While no-one’s in the position to book a holiday right now, we can’t sit by and watch businesses forced to close, while others face a bleak and uncertain future.
“Now is the time for the government to set out a recovery plan for the tourism industry and announce how it will be supporting traders facing huge losses at what should be the start of the holiday season.
“Boosting the confidence of the public to look close to home at our incredible holiday destinations must be part of this plan. The government should look at calls for an October half-term bank holiday that would not only help tourism but could give an opportunity to celebrate key workers who have made such an impact on national life at this time.”
In his letter, Knight added: “Seven per cent of coastal businesses have already permanently closed, and many others throughout the country which usually depend on the Easter and May bank holiday trade have lost out on a huge amount of business. Although many have benefited from the support schemes put in place by the government, there is still significant uncertainty about which parts of the sector will be able to reopen and when.
“It is clear to the committee that there is much that the government can do to help the tourism industry recover, not least in working to restore the confidence of the British public that, when the time comes, it will be safe to holiday in the UK.”
It added: “The message from the sector is clear: the Government needs to do more. As well as clear messaging to encourage people to holiday in the UK, there have been suggestions of an additional bank holiday in October to ‘replace’ those which people have not been able to take full advantage of this month, and to encourage the uptake of domestic holidays at half-term. This idea undoubtably has some merit, and an additional bank holiday could also provide an opportunity to celebrate the key workers who have made such an impact on national life at this time.”
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